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Westport Takes a Crack at Wood Bats

Only a handful of leagues throughout the state require Little League baseball players to use wooden bats. Westport joined that selective group this year. Keith Stein, a member of the Westport LL board, said safety was the primary reason for the decision.

“On a small field, you have some kids that are 70 pounds and some that are 150 pounds,’’ he said. “The technology is amazing with the metal bats. It’s like tennis racquets or golf clubs.”

The danger with metal bats is the “trampoline affect,” Stein says. The ball jumps off the bat and fielders, particularly pitchers, can’t react quickly enough. Metal bats, which are primarily made of aluminum, also have bigger “sweet spots” than wood bats. Wood bats are heavier than metal, but lighter than the models used in the 1970s and ‘80s.

The result is a safer playing environment for children. ”You get a much truer response to balls that are hit,’’ Stein says. “You’ll be able to react.”

Stein says Westport consulted with officials in the Ridgefield Little League, which switched to wood bats several years ago. Members of that league felt it worked well. “Ultimately, it makes you a better player,’’ Stein says.

Westport purchased about 130 bats for the league, which has about 950 children playing from kindergarten through seventh grade on 80 teams. Players in grades 5-7 are using the wood bats. One surprising twist to the story is cost. Metal bats have jumped in price over the past few years – some go for around $200 – while Stein says the league bought wood bats in bulk for between $15-$40. “There was a lot of pressure on parents to buy the bat du jour,’’ Stein says. Wood bats can break, but aluminum bats can break as well.

Stein says the league will evaluate its decision after the season. For now, it’s baseball as it ought to be around the town’s ballfields. “You hear the crack of the bat instead of a ping,’’ Stein says. “That’s a nice sound.”

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